Article published Jun 28, 2009 The Nashua Telegraph
See also the Kids’ Right to Read Project interview with Andy Towne.
"Campbell High School’s mission is to join together with parents, students, staff and community to become a collaboration of learners born of character, courage, respect and responsibility."
– Campbell High School mission statement
Before I begin, I would like to note that I have read three of the four stories in question at Campbell High School, with David Sedaris’ "I Like Guys" being the one that I haven’t.
I don’t believe that any of them promote bad behavior. I also believe that Sedaris’ story does not promote homosexuality, but rather tells his personal story of being a gay man in today’s society.
Teenagers must deal with the issues that are raised in everyday life, such as drug use, homosexuality, rape, abortion and others discussed in these stories. Homosexuality and drug use are everywhere. Even in Litchfield.
Again, I would like to point out that the use of these stories in class is not to teach students to be gay or participate in illegal/immoral activities. The discussion of these real-life topics engages Campbell’s students in society.
I note that these are not the only stories that are required reading at CHS and in high schools across the country that discuss controversial topics.
We wouldn’t consider taking American classics such as "Johnny Got His Gun," "The Great Gatsby," "Of Mice And Men" or "Romeo and Juliet" out of the curriculum, but those and more include similar concepts as the stories in question. Those are discussed in freshman and sophomore years.
The short story course is made up of mostly juniors and seniors who have a higher level of maturity and have more exposure to these topics in their daily lives outside of school.
Would society rather have these students not knowing what’s out there and experimenting on their own? Or would we rather give them an opportunity to discuss these matters with both adults and classmates in a structured environment?
I understand that some people are concerned because they believe these subjects should only be discussed at home. However, not all parents talk to their children about all of this. Again, wouldn’t we rather discuss these issues in a structured environment?
All students are required to take D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), so drug use is certainly not a new subject. Virtually all of these matters are portrayed in today’s TV shows, movies and music.
Whether the parents realize it or not, their children have been exposed to sexuality, drugs and alcohol for years. By the time they are juniors and seniors in high school, most of them are mature enough to handle a discussion in a somewhat public setting.
In order to allow parents to decide whether they believe their children should participate in discussions such as these, I suggest listing all required reading in the course selection manual and on the syllabus for the course. Since parents are required to sign both documents, this option should allow them sufficient opportunity to view the reading list and raise any issues.
I know that not all parents are given this information by their students, so I would also suggest making course descriptions for all classes available on the Campbell High School Web site, with the required reading list that should be updated as any changes are made.
In this case, the administration would have to review the reading list before approving the course description for publishing in the manual. A policy such as this would still allow some students to discuss this material, while parents can choose to keep their students out of classes that they deem inappropriate for their own child.
Campbell’s short story course is an elective course. Students are not required to take it, and parents may choose to not enroll their child in the course.
Remember, it is not values of sexuality, homosexual acceptance, drug use and cannibalism that Campbell High School is teaching. Instead, the staff at Campbell tries to instill character, courage, respect and responsibility into their students.
High school is meant to prepare students for the real world, and exposure to what’s happening in society is part of that education. The values listed in the mission statement are what I believe will make students successful once they have graduated, no matter what they choose to do upon completion of their secondary education.
Lastly, I would like to thank the staff at Campbell High School for giving me the education I received there. Almost every teacher can find a way to make learning at least somewhat enjoyable.
I would especially like to thank Mrs. Kathleen Reilly, the curriculum facilitator for the English department, for her outstanding dedication to the school, her students and her job. She is one of the most passionate people I know, and she brings that to the classroom every single day. It is a shame that she has resigned from Campbell.
I hope that the community can come to a reasonable resolution on this issue, and that Campbell will continue to be a place where parents, students, staff and community can join together to become a collaboration of learners born of character, courage, respect and responsibility.
Andy Towne is a member of the Class of 2007 at Campbell High School in Litchfield.
© 2007, Telegraph Publishing Company, Nashua, New Hampshire
NCAC posted this article with permission from its author.
Click here to view the Kids’ Right to Read Project’s letter to the the Chair of the Litchfield School Board
For more information on the challenge in Litchfield visit NCAC’s blog:
Click here for "Litchfield teacher resigns amid short story controversy"
In the past individuals and groups who support free speech have responded in numerous ways to book bans and challenges, including by creating Facebook groups, petitions, organizing marches and ‘read-ins’ and tweeting to spread the word.
You can also call the Litchfield School District (603) 578-3570 or email Dennis Miller, the Chair of the Litchfield School Board at email@example.com directly to voice your opinion.